Warner Bros. // 2003 // 134 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 24th, 2003
Evil slips through.
It's been a quite a while since we had a good old-fashioned Stephen King horror movie, eh? I mean, with all these touchy feely Green Miles and Shawshank Redemptions getting made, it's as if folks forgot about Steve's gooier, more disgusting side. But not director/writer Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill, Grand Canyon). Working with acclaimed writer William Goldman (Misery), Kasdan went back to the days of yore and found himself smack dab in the middle of an alien invasion, sharp toothed monsters, and Morgan Freeman's out-of-control eyebrows. It can only spell one thing: Dreamcatcher, and it's now on DVD care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Dreamcatcher follows the adventures of four men forever bound by an indelible childhood incident: telepathy. Jonesy (Damian Lewis, Band of Brothers), Beaver (Jason Lee, Chasing Amy), Henry (Thomas Jane, Deep Blue Sea), and Pete (Timothy Olyphant, Scream 2) have headed to a snowy cabin for some rest and relaxation. What they find is an alien plague that could wipe out the entire planet as we know it. The bond the four men share was given to them as children when they came to the rescue of "Duddits," a mentally retarded boy with an out-of-this-world secret. While vacationing up north the four men come face to face with Mr. Gray, an alien life form that takes over Jonesy's body and makes a beeline for the general population. How did Mr. Gray come into being? It appears that the aliens multiply by -- I kid you not -- hibernating inside a human body and then hatching through their anuses (and you thought three alarm Texas chili played havoc with your revolving exit door). Close on Mr. Gray's tail is General blah (Freeman), an out of control alien hunter who seems to be a few spaceships short of an intergalactic fleet, if you know catch my drift. The safety of the free world rests in the hands of a small group of men with an uncommon connection whose lives have been weaved together like the threads in a Dreamcatcher.
Dreamcatcher ended up being a huge disappointment for Warner Bros. and Stephen King fans alike. It's no secret that almost all of King's movie adaptations have been less than successful, some being much worse than others (Pet Semetary II, I'm talkin' 'bout you!). In fact, aside of a few rare instances, movies based on King's books have all but floundered at the box office. It's hard to do King right, movie-wise, and Dreamcatcher may be the most prime of all examples.
I haven't read the book on which Dreamcatcher is based, though I can't imagine it's anything like this movie. I have the sneaking suspicion that the novel is far more intricate and cohesive -- Dreamcatcher feels as if it chopped out 20 pages every so often, filmed them, and threw them up on the screen. The screenplay was written by William Goldman, a prestigious writer who penned the Academy Award winning Misery, a better Stephen King movie with more fluid ideas. Goldman and Kasdan have come up with a bloated, overlong screenplay that leaves too many loose ends dangling in the wind. Why, exactly, does Mr. Gray talk with an English accent? If these aliens are all teeth and gook and mush, how did they ever build spaceships without opposable thumbs? Most of these questions are skirted over to make room for scenes involving characters laying face down in a bathtub with their rear ends ripped out. How pleasant.
The cast is filled with some semi-famous faces, Morgan Freeman and Thomas Jane the most prominent among them. Jane, who may get his big break in next summer's comic book adaptation of The Punisher (2004), spends most of his time squinting his eyes and looking extraordinarily pensive. Jason Lee plays a variation on Jason Lee, which means he's sarcastically funny. Morgan Freeman, an actor who is usually great no matter what the material, is overshadowed by his facial hair -- I kid you not, his eyebrows nearly touch the tip of his head. When and if you're able to tear yourself away from his hair, you'll find Freeman overacting in what may be the low point of his career. The rest of the cast, including Tom Sizemore and Timothy Olyphant, appear to be spending most of their time attempting to make heads or tails of the screenplay.
To be fair, Dreamcatcher does play far better on the comfort of a TV than it did on the big screen. When I first saw Dreamcatcher I was appalled at how bad it was -- how could such a talented group of individuals produce such a shoddy piece of filmmaking? Yet for as bad as everything was, the effects appeared to be top notch -- the aliens look mean and the action sequences are well executed -- I giddily enjoyed the scene where military helicopters torched fleeing aliens on the ground. When I watched it again at home, I found myself a bit quelled by its ludicrousness: Dreamcatcher was so bad the second time around that it ended up being enjoyable popcorn entertainment. If that's what you're in the mood for, cover your ass and have a ball.
Dreamcatcher is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I don't have any major complaints about how this picture looks. Warner has done a fantastic job of making sure the transfer is crisp and clear. The colors are all bright without any bleeding permeating the images. The black levels are solid and dark without any annoying gray tinting. Try as I may I couldn't find any imperfections worth nothing in this review. Overall, this great looking picture should please fans.
The soundtrack is presented in an aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix in English and French. There are plenty of surround sounds displayed in this mix with lots of rumbling from the bass and rear speakers. In fact, there weren't many instances where the surround feature wasn't engaged. Lots of explosions and screeching filled both the front and rear speakers, making for a fun listen. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Since Dreamcatcher failed to light the box office on fire (it was a flop), it's not surprising to find this disc light on supplemental materials. What fans do get are three short behind-the-scenes documentaries: "DreamWriter: An Interview with Stephen King," "DreamWeavers: The Visual Effects in Dreamcatcher," and "DreamMakers: A Journey Through the Production." Each of these documentaries touches upon various aspects of the film and its production. The Stephen King interview is the best of the three -- fans get a small glimpse of what the writer thinks about his novels being made into movies (though he must have been on PCP when he saw a rough cut of Dreamcatcher since he says it's really good). The last two documentaries focus on the film's production (which includes behind-the-scenes footage) and interviews with various cast, crew, and effects artists discussing what lured them to the project.
Also included on this disc is an alternate ending to the film (which isn't all that great), four deleted scenes that were left on the cutting room floor for good reason, and a teaser trailer for the film presented in anamorphic widescreen.
If you're in the mood for an "aliens-exploding-out-of-victims-rear-ends-while-Morgan-Freeman-goes-ballistic-as-lots-of-overacting-takes-place-on-a-snowy-winter-day" kinda flick, you may get your rocks off watching Dreamcatcher. Warner has done a decent job on this disc, especially on the video and audio presentations.
For a howling good time, Dreamcatcher may be just what the medicine man ordered.
Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 134 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "DreamWriter: An Interview with Stephen King" Documentary
* "DreamWeavers: The Visual Effects in Dreamcatcher" Documentary
* "DreamMakers: A Journey Through the Production" Documentary
* Alternate Ending
* Four Deleted Scenes
* Teaser Trailer
* Official Site